HISTORY: STATION 42

Newport Station c1907

Newport Station c1907

EARLY FIRES AND FIREFIGHTING IN NEWPORT

 

Colonial settlement began in Newport, then known as Williamstown Junction, around 1862. But it was not until the Newport Railway Workshops were established in 1882 that the area really began to grow and develop. Before the Railway Workshops were established, fires were attended by the Williamstown Volunteer Fire Brigade which was established in 1851.

Williamstown Fire Brigade, Cecil Street, c1880.

Williamstown Fire Brigade, Cecil Street, c1880.

The Newport Railway Workshops had their own brigade which was operational and attending fires at the workshops and the local community from 1887. There are references to volunteer brigades in Newport but it is unclear if these were part of the Victorian Railways Volunteer Brigade, the Newport Workshops Brigade or another civil brigade.[1] What is known, is that by 1891, the community recognised the need for the suburb of Newport to have its own fire brigade. It could no longer afford to rely on assistance from the Railway Workshops and Williamstown.

newport workshops fire brigade 1889.png

On Friday 13 February 1891 at five o’clock in the morning, a fire broke out at Mr S. Vagg’s boot shop, in Melbourne Road, Newport. The fire burned quickly and the fire brigade was delayed in attending the fire, according to one newspaper account, ‘due to a defect in the fire bell, which rendered its tones almost inaudible.’[2] The loss sustained by this fire was great. Mr Vagg’s shop was completely destroyed - all seven brick rooms. Next door, Mr Andrew’s tailor shop was damaged, including the loss of stock.[3] The Williamstown Advertiser wrote that:

… the loss occasioned would not have been so great had there been a brigade close at hand. It could hardly be expected that the Williamstown brigade could always be up to time when it was such a long way off.[4]

Shortly after this fire, a meeting was called at Strickland’s Junction Hotel for the purpose of forming a fire brigade at Newport. On Monday 16 February, Mr Dixon, chairman of the meeting contended that ‘Williamstown Brigades were station too far from Newport, which led to much confusion when a fire occurred.’[5] While all at the meeting were in agreeance that something needed to be done, it was pointed out that it was not worth doing anything yet as the Fire Brigades Act had only just been passed and the Fire Brigade’s Board was in the process of being established.

Newport Railway Workshop, c1899

Newport Railway Workshop, c1899

One month later however, a letter appeared to the editor of the Williamstown Chronicle from  the honorary secretary of the Newport and Spottiswoode Volunteer Fire Brigade, expressing thanks to the community and newspaper for support it had shown regarding the formation of a fire brigade in Newport. It seemed that the community was not willing to wait for the M.F.B and went ahead and established their own volunteer brigade in the interim. The secretary writes: ‘in order that Newport may be recognised as an important centre by the new Fire Brigades Board, it is desirable that an efficient brigade should be established.’ He concludes his letter by asking for subscriptions from the local community ‘to help in this praiseworthy object.’[6] 

Perhaps it was because of the administrative challenges that faced the new Fire Brigades Board in formalising all the existing metropolitan and suburban volunteer brigades, but the suburb of Newport would not get an official station part of M.F.B until 1906. So it was that the Newport and Spottiswoode Volunteer Brigade served the firefighting needs of the Newport community alongside the Williamstown and Newport Workshops brigades, for the next 16 years.

 
 

[1] Ian A. Munro, ‘Project 42’, a brief history of fire brigades in Williamstown and Newport’, 2007, p. 23.
[2] The Age, 14 February 1891, p. 9.
[3] The Age, 14 February 1891, p. 9.
[4] The Williamstown Advertiser, 21 February 1891, n.p.
[5] The Williamstown Chronicle, 21 February 1891, p. 3.
[6]The Williamstown Chronicle, 21 March 1891, p. 2.

Station+42+1911.jpg

STATION LIFE

 

By August 1906, tenders were being sought for builders to build a new fire station at Newport on behalf of the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Board. The new station was to be built on the corner of Park Street and Melbourne Road, to be built of ‘brick and two stories high’ and include ‘a watch-room, men’s rooms and stabling on the ground floor with accommodation for two married men on the top floor.’[1] 

When it opened in June 1907, the Newport Fire Station was the third largest fire station in the State of Victoria and was home to the second largest steam engine in Victoria. Equipment also included a hose-cart, reel and three horses. The station, known then as number 36, was operated by District Superintendent Lindsey – who moved from Williamstown Station – Foreman Erck and four other men. The official opening was celebrated with a demonstration and a ‘sumptuous champagne dinner’ attended by local dignitaries and representatives from the MFB board.[2]  

Newport Station provided 24 hour fire support and coverage. In the beginning of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, firefighters worked a staggering 168 hours per week. Stations had between two and four firefighters on call all the time who lived in or next to the station. Each firefighter was allocated one day off per fortnight.

When not actively fighting fires, but still on duty, firefighters were required to maintain the station, testing equipment, alarms and inspecting the premises to ensure everything was in good working order. 

When Newport opened the District Officer (D.O), who was Superintendent Lindsey at the time, moved to the new Newport Station. The D.O was in charge of Newport, Williamstown, Yarraville and Footscray. This remained the case up until 1942, when the D.O moved from Newport to Footscray Station.[3] 

In 1910, Melbourne was growing and so the division of fire districts and stations were reviewed. Fire districts were reallocated, and some stations were renumbered. Newport Station was moved from district D to district F and as a result, its number changed from 36 to 42. In 1960 the fire districts were reassessed once again and restructured into Central, North, South, East and West districts.[4] 

Newport Fire Station, 1994

Newport Fire Station, 1994

The 1960s saw the first modifications to Newport Station since its opening in 1907. The original brick building was modified and modernised. The upper story which until this time housed officers and their families, were removed. The station was no longer home to firefighting families. But MFB purchased a number of houses along Melbourne Road near the station where these families moved.[5] Another engine bay was built on the north side to accommodate the more modern appliances. The old engine bay was converted into a mess room, recreation room and locker room. The old watch room and District Officers office was converted into an Officers flat.[6]

In 1994, the whole of Newport fire station was demolished and rebuilt into the modern station it is today.

[1] The Argus, 18 August 1906, p. 6.
[2] The Williamstown Chronicle, 29 June 1907, p. 3.
[3] Ian Munro, p. 39.
[4] Ian munro p40
[5] munro P 47
[6] Ian munro.

 
Station+42+1994.jpg

NEWPORT TODAY

 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. 

video Block
Double-click here to add a video by URL or embed code. Learn more